School NewsMar 1, 2023

updated Apr 4, 2024

The Company We Keep

Commencement speakers through the years

(Walter Scott)

From advocates and actors to political heavyweights and Olympic gold medalists, MHS has hosted several prominent speakers through the years.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at the 1960 Commencement, Mae Jemison, the first African American woman astronaut, addressed the 1993 graduates, and television producer, talk show host, and actor Oprah Winfrey, delivered the 1990 Commencement address.

Visiting speakers have included political leaders — U.S. Sen Jacob Javits (1979), U.S. Sen Paul Tsongas (1982), John W. Swan, the fourth Premier of Bermuda (1989), and former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift (2006) — and MHS alums — Catherine Samuels ’65 (2003), Martha Wheelock ’59 (2004), Susan P. O’Day ’77 (2013), Vittoria Incandela ’00 (2016), Vanessa Stair ’06 (2018), and Kristina Delgado ’09 (2019).

The list also includes several inspiring advocates for girls and women — Isabel Carter Steward (1997), Thoraya Ahmed Obaid (2009), Tiffany Dufu (2012), and Shabana Basij-Rasikh (2014). We are thrilled to have hosted such accomplished leaders.

And, due to popular demand, we share more from these two speakers!

Invited by Roger King P’90 and his daughter Kellie ’90 to deliver the 1990 Commencement Address, Oprah advised students to listen to the voice inside them, letting their heads and hearts guide them, rather than trying to be somebody else.

“The greatest gift I have, you have, we all have is the ability to listen to The Voice within each of us,” she said. “What I have found is: if you heed your own higher calling, you will reach the best place, the best space in life. It means that you do not go through your life… living it and letting it be defined by other people.”

Everyone, Oprah reminded the students, comes from their own personal histories and legacies. Ultimately, it is what they do with their gifts that define who they are.

“I do not label success in terms of where you come from, what your family did, whether or not your mother or your father has a Ph.D. or no degree, whether or not your home overlooks the lake or, as mine did for many years, the laundromat,” she said. “What does matter is your commitment to life, your willingness to follow and do what is not only the loving thing, the kind thing, the caring thing, but what will always ultimately be the honorable thing.”

Two of Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandchildren — Kate Roosevelt Whitney ’54 and Nina Roosevelt Gibson ’60 — attended MHS. In remarks at the 1960 Commencement, Eleanor challenged the 49 members of the graduating class to continue to use their minds to the fullest all of their lives.

“Give, grow, never stop learning and more doors will be open to you,” the former First Lady said, as noted in a newspaper account of the event. “Some die before they live because they stop learning and giving to the world their own special talents.”

Referencing the Cold War climate of the era, Mrs. Roosevelt explained to students the importance of their roles in the world. “Your country leads the non-Communist countries of the world,” she said. “You have an opportunity to paint with your citizenship the picture which will attract areas in the world coming into political freedom to a democracy. The way you live is the way the rest of the world thinks of us.”

She also advised students to develop their own inner serenity. “As people take time to understand each other, care about each other and learn how to live together, there will be more peace in the world,” she stated.

Wise words from trailblazing women!